If you look at Psalm 73:23, you’ll find that the first word is an adverb used as a contrastive conjunction – nevertheless or yet or but. A contrastive conjunction indicates a dissimilarity between what precedes it and what follows it. It indicates that regardless of one fact there is another fact which appears to contradict the first. The second fact is a concession to the first fact. The conjunction makes the second fact emphatic, putting the greatest weight upon it. The English Standard Version (ESV) and King James Version (KJV) both translate the Hebrew conjunction with the English adverb nevertheless. Nevertheless means regardless, in spite of, even so, however, nonetheless, notwithstanding, still, withal, yet. With each of these synonyms, a contrast is implied. Fact A though true is nevertheless not as important as the following fact B.
What precedes the nevertheless in Psalm 73:23 is Asaph’s (the Psalmist) confession of believing the lie that the wicked always prosper and never experience the ills of life. He envied them (vv. 2-3) and considered becoming like them forsaking his pure heart toward Yahweh (v. 1). Had he fully embraced the lie, he conceded that he would have betrayed the generation of your children (v. 15). He admits in verses 21 and 22 that his soul had become embittered against God, and he had become and acted like a wild beast who lived only by instinct and was driven only by his consideration of his most present and immediate need. Such was the very opposite of the pure heart, which was required of God’s chosen people. They were to love God with all one’s heart, soul, and might. They were to trust in the steadfast love and goodness toward them.
What intervened and caused him to repent was an experience of worship in the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end. …How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors! (vv. 17, 19). Prior to this, he had relied on his own understanding rather than trusting in the Lord and His Word. In fact, he described his attempts to reason it out as a wearisome task, fruitless. In that moment of worship in the sanctuary, the Lord had given him eyes to see and revealed the truth of His ultimate judgment of the wicked. The world might offer temporary pleasures to them, but they would ultimately face the terror of God’s judgment.
Asaph’s revelation went deeper than just the realization of the end of the wicked. He realized that while he had been trapped and blinded by the lie that the wicked prosper, while he had been behaving like a wild beast, and while he had been utterly ensnared in his sin, nevertheless Yahweh had continually been with him holding my right hand (v. 23). Thus, the only reason that Asaph was delivered from the lie was saving presence of Yahweh in his life. He now realized that Yahweh had been providentially guiding and leading him to the truth of His Word. Asaph acknowledges You guide me with your counsel. Further, at life’s end he will not face the terror awaiting the wicked, rather afterward you will receive me to glory (v. 24). He confessed that God is his greatest heavenly and earthly good. By implication, the wicked amass earthly treasure and comfort only to lose it, but Asaph’s treasure would never be lost (v. 25).
Then comes Asaph’s foundational insight. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (v. 26). He realized that his real strength was not physical or emotional strength. It was not his own ability to reason and his understanding. His real strength was the presence of Yahweh in his life both now and forever that made him rich beyond measure. The wicked had nothing to compare with it. He realized that they are far from you and shall perish (v. 27). But for me it is good to be near God…my refuge, that I may tell of all your works (v. 28).
Remember Asaph’s lesson of the nevertheless. The opening of our eyes to see our sin as sin, and the fact that we repent of our sin is the evidence that God is with us. He is faithfully saving us from our sins and ourselves. Our real strength is not in ourselves, but in the gracious presence of God who refuses to leave our side, who leads us and guides for our good, and who has planned an eternal glory for us. Our sin is fact A, and nevertheless declares that God’s presence with us is the more important fact B.
This nevertheless should not only fill us with hope, but it should fill us with overflowing praise. What a wonderful, loving, gracious, patient, faithful God! In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son (Heb. 1:2) to make unmistakenly clear just how committed He is to us, how loving, merciful, and faithful. How should we respond? Tell of all your works! Abound with thanksgiving, praise, and faith!
Last of all, extend a nevertheless to others. Be to them as the Lord has been to you.